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THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 166006. March 14, 2008.]

PLANTERS PRODUCTS, INC. , petitioner, vs . FERTIPHIL CORPORATION ,


respondent.

DECISION

REYES, R.T., J : p

THE Regional Trial Courts (RTC) have the authority and jurisdiction to consider
the constitutionality of statutes, executive orders, presidential decrees and other
issuances. The Constitution vests that power not only in the Supreme Court but in all
Regional Trial Courts.
The principle is relevant in this petition for review on certiorari of the Decision 1
of the Court of Appeals (CA) a rming with modi cation that of the RTC in Makati City,
2 nding petitioner Planters Products, Inc. (PPI) liable to private respondent Fertiphil
Corporation (Fertiphil) for the levies it paid under Letter of Instruction (LOI) No. 1465.
The Facts
Petitioner PPI and private respondent Fertiphil are private corporations
incorporated under Philippine laws. 3 They are both engaged in the importation and
distribution of fertilizers, pesticides and agricultural chemicals.
On June 3, 1985, then President Ferdinand Marcos, exercising his legislative
powers, issued LOI No. 1465 which provided, among others, for the imposition of a
capital recovery component (CRC) on the domestic sale of all grades of fertilizers in the
Philippines. 4 The LOI provides:
3. The Administrator of the Fertilizer Pesticide Authority to include in its fertilizer
pricing formula a capital contribution component of not less than P10 per
bag. This capital contribution shall be collected until adequate capital is
raised to make PPI viable. Such capital contribution shall be applied by
FPA to all domestic sales of fertilizers in the Philippines. 5 (Underscoring
supplied)

Pursuant to the LOI, Fertiphil paid P10 for every bag of fertilizer it sold in the
domestic market to the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA). FPA then remitted the
amount collected to the Far East Bank and Trust Company, the depositary bank of PPI.
Fertiphil paid P6,689,144 to FPA from July 8, 1985 to January 24, 1986. 6
After the 1986 Edsa Revolution, FPA voluntarily stopped the imposition of the
P10 levy. With the return of democracy, Fertiphil demanded from PPI a refund of the
amounts it paid under LOI No. 1465, but PPI refused to accede to the demand. 7
Fertiphil led a complaint for collection and damages 8 against FPA and PPI with
the RTC in Makati. It questioned the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 for being unjust,
unreasonable, oppressive, invalid and an unlawful imposition that amounted to a denial
of due process of law. 9 Fertiphil alleged that the LOI solely favored PPI, a privately
owned corporation, which used the proceeds to maintain its monopoly of the fertilizer
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industry.
In its Answer, 1 0 FPA, through the Solicitor General, countered that the issuance
of LOI No. 1465 was a valid exercise of the police power of the State in ensuring the
stability of the fertilizer industry in the country. It also averred that Fertiphil did not
sustain any damage from the LOI because the burden imposed by the levy fell on the
ultimate consumer, not the seller. SIDEaA

RTC Disposition
On November 20, 1991, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of Fertiphil,
disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court hereby renders judgment in favor
of the plaintiff and against the defendant Planters Product, Inc., ordering the latter
to pay the former:

1) the sum of P6,698,144.00 with interest at 12% from the time of judicial
demand;

2) the sum of P100,000 as attorney's fees;

3) the cost of suit.

SO ORDERED. 1 1

Ruling that the imposition of the P10 CRC was an exercise of the State's inherent
power of taxation, the RTC invalidated the levy for violating the basic principle that
taxes can only be levied for public purpose, viz.:
It is apparent that the imposition of P10 per fertilizer bag sold in the country by
LOI 1465 is purportedly in the exercise of the power of taxation. It is a settled
principle that the power of taxation by the state is plenary. Comprehensive and
supreme, the principal check upon its abuse resting in the responsibility of the
members of the legislature to their constituents. However, there are two kinds of
limitations on the power of taxation: the inherent limitations and the
constitutional limitations.

One of the inherent limitations is that a tax may be levied only for public
purposes:
The power to tax can be resorted to only for a constitutionally valid public
purpose. By the same token, taxes may not be levied for purely private
purposes, for building up of private fortunes, or for the redress of private
wrongs. They cannot be levied for the improvement of private property, or
for the bene t, and promotion of private enterprises, except where the aid
is incident to the public bene t. It is well-settled principle of constitutional
law that no general tax can be levied except for the purpose of raising
money which is to be expended for public use. Funds cannot be exacted
under the guise of taxation to promote a purpose that is not of public
interest. Without such limitation, the power to tax could be exercised or
employed as an authority to destroy the economy of the people. A tax,
however, is not held void on the ground of want of public interest unless
the want of such interest is clear. (71 Am. Jur. pp. 371-372)

In the case at bar, the plaintiff paid the amount of P6,698,144.00 to the Fertilizer
and Pesticide Authority pursuant to the P10 per bag of fertilizer sold imposition
under LOI 1465 which, in turn, remitted the amount to the defendant Planters
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Products, Inc. thru the latter's depository bank, Far East Bank and Trust Co. Thus,
by virtue of LOI 1465 the plaintiff, Fertiphil Corporation, which is a private
domestic corporation, became poorer by the amount of P6,698,144.00 and the
defendant, Planters Product, Inc., another private domestic corporation, became
richer by the amount of P6,698,144.00. aHSCcE

Tested by the standards of constitutionality as set forth in the afore-quoted


jurisprudence, it is quite evident that LOI 1465 insofar as it imposes the amount
of P10 per fertilizer bag sold in the country and orders that the said amount
should go to the defendant Planters Product, Inc. is unlawful because it violates
the mandate that a tax can be levied only for a public purpose and not to bene t,
aid and promote a private enterprise such as Planters Product, Inc. 1 2

PPI moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied. 1 3 PPI then led a
notice of appeal with the RTC but it failed to pay the requisite appeal docket fee. In a
separate but related proceeding, this Court 1 4 allowed the appeal of PPI and remanded
the case to the CA for proper disposition.
CA Decision
On November 28, 2003, the CA handed down its decision a rming with
modification that of the RTC, with the following fallo:
IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the decision appealed from is hereby
AFFIRMED , subject to the MODIFICATION that the award of attorney's fees is
hereby DELETED . 1 5

In a rming the RTC decision, the CA ruled that the lis mota of the complaint for
collection was the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465, thus:
The question then is whether it was proper for the trial court to exercise its power
to judicially determine the constitutionality of the subject statute in the instant
case.

As a rule, where the controversy can be settled on other grounds, the courts will
not resolve the constitutionality of a law (Lim v. Pacquing, 240 SCRA 649 [1995]).
The policy of the courts is to avoid ruling on constitutional questions and to
presume that the acts of political departments are valid, absent a clear and
unmistakable showing to the contrary.

However, the courts are not precluded from exercising such power when the
following requisites are obtaining in a controversy before it: First, there must be
before the court an actual case calling for the exercise of judicial review. Second,
the question must be ripe for adjudication. Third, the person challenging the
validity of the act must have standing to challenge. Fourth, the question of
constitutionality must have been raised at the earliest opportunity; and lastly, the
issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case (Integrated Bar of
the Philippines v. Zamora, 338 SCRA 81 [2000]).
Indisputably, the present case was primarily instituted for collection and
damages. However, a perusal of the complaint also reveals that the instant action
is founded on the claim that the levy imposed was an unlawful and
unconstitutional special assessment. Consequently, the requisite that the
constitutionality of the law in question be the very lis mota of the case is present,
making it proper for the trial court to rule on the constitutionality of LOI 1465. 1 6

The CA held that even on the assumption that LOI No. 1465 was issued under the
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police power of the state, it is still unconstitutional because it did not promote public
welfare. The CA explained:
In declaring LOI 1465 unconstitutional, the trial court held that the levy imposed
under the said law was an invalid exercise of the State's power of taxation
inasmuch as it violated the inherent and constitutional prescription that taxes be
levied only for public purposes. It reasoned out that the amount collected under
the levy was remitted to the depository bank of PPI, which the latter used to
advance its private interest.

On the other hand, appellant submits that the subject statute's passage was a
valid exercise of police power. In addition, it disputes the court a quo's findings
arguing that the collections under LOI 1465 was for the bene t of Planters
Foundation, Incorporated (PFI), a foundation created by law to hold in trust for
millions of farmers, the stock ownership of PPI.

Of the three fundamental powers of the State, the exercise of police power has
been characterized as the most essential, insistent and the least limitable of
powers, extending as it does to all the great public needs. It may be exercised as
long as the activity or the property sought to be regulated has some relevance to
public welfare (Constitutional Law, by Isagani A. Cruz, p. 38, 1995 Edition).
Vast as the power is, however, it must be exercised within the limits set by the
Constitution, which requires the concurrence of a lawful subject and a lawful
method. Thus, our courts have laid down the test to determine the validity of a
police measure as follows: (1) the interests of the public generally, as
distinguished from those of a particular class, requires its exercise; and (2) the
means employed are reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the
purpose and not unduly oppressive upon individuals (National Development
Company v. Philippine Veterans Bank, 192 SCRA 257 [1990]).
It is upon applying this established tests that We sustain the trial court's holding
LOI 1465 unconstitutional. To be sure, ensuring the continued supply and
distribution of fertilizer in the country is an undertaking imbued with public
interest. However, the method by which LOI 1465 sought to achieve this is by no
means a measure that will promote the public welfare. The government's
commitment to support the successful rehabilitation and continued viability of
PPI, a private corporation, is an unmistakable attempt to mask the subject
statute's impartiality. There is no way to treat the self-interest of a favored entity,
like PPI, as identical with the general interest of the country's farmers or even the
Filipino people in general. Well to stress, substantive due process exacts fairness
and equal protection disallows distinction where none is needed. When a statute's
public purpose is spoiled by private interest, the use of police power becomes a
travesty which must be struck down for being an arbitrary exercise of government
power. To rule in favor of appellant would contravene the general principle that
revenues derived from taxes cannot be used for purely private purposes or for the
exclusive benefit of private individuals. 1 7

The CA did not accept PPI's claim that the levy imposed under LOI No. 1465 was
for the bene t of Planters Foundation, Inc., a foundation created to hold in trust the
stock ownership of PPI. The CA stated:
Appellant next claims that the collections under LOI 1465 was for the bene t of
Planters Foundation, Incorporated (PFI), a foundation created by law to hold in
trust for millions of farmers, the stock ownership of PFI on the strength of Letter
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of Undertaking (LOU) issued by then Prime Minister Cesar Virata on April 18, 1985
and a rmed by the Secretary of Justice in an Opinion dated October 12, 1987, to
wit:

"2. Upon the effective date of this Letter of Undertaking, the Republic shall
cause FPA to include in its fertilizer pricing formula a capital recovery
component, the proceeds of which will be used initially for the purpose of
funding the unpaid portion of the outstanding capital stock of Planters
presently held in trust by Planters Foundation, Inc. (Planters Foundation),
which unpaid capital is estimated at approximately P206 million (subject
to validation by Planters and Planters Foundation) (such unpaid portion of
the outstanding capital stock of Planters being hereafter referred to as the
'Unpaid Capital'), and subsequently for such capital increases as may be
required for the continuing viability of Planters.
The capital recovery component shall be in the minimum amount of P10
per bag, which will be added to the price of all domestic sales of fertilizer in
the Philippines by any importer and/or fertilizer mother company. In this
connection, the Republic hereby acknowledges that the advances by
Planters to Planters Foundation which were applied to the payment of the
Planters shares now held in trust by Planters Foundation, have been
assigned to, among others, the Creditors. Accordingly, the Republic,
through FPA, hereby agrees to deposit the proceeds of the capital recovery
component in the special trust account designated in the notice dated April
2, 1985, addressed by counsel for the Creditors to Planters Foundation.
Such proceeds shall be deposited by FPA on or before the 15th day of each
month.

The capital recovery component shall continue to be charged and collected


until payment in full of (a) the Unpaid Capital and/or (b) any shortfall in
the payment of the Subsidy Receivables, (c) any carrying cost accruing
from the date hereof on the amounts which may be outstanding from time
to time of the Unpaid Capital and/or the Subsidy Receivables and (d) the
capital increases contemplated in paragraph 2 hereof. For the purpose of
the foregoing clause (c), the 'carrying cost' shall be at such rate as will
represent the full and reasonable cost to Planters of servicing its debts,
taking into account both its peso and foreign currency-denominated
obligations." (Records, pp. 42-43)
Appellant's proposition is open to question, to say the least. The LOU issued by
then Prime Minister Virata taken together with the Justice Secretary's Opinion
does not preponderantly demonstrate that the collections made were held in trust
in favor of millions of farmers. Unfortunately for appellant, in the absence of
su cient evidence to establish its claims, this Court is constrained to rely on
what is explicitly provided in LOI 1465 — that one of the primary aims in imposing
the levy is to support the successful rehabilitation and continued viability of PPI.
18

PPI moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied. 1 9 It then led the
present petition with this Court.
Issues
Petitioner PPI raises four issues for Our consideration, viz.:
I
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THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF LOI 1465 CANNOT BE COLLATERALLY ATTACKED
AND BE DECREED VIA A DEFAULT JUDGMENT IN A CASE FILED FOR
COLLECTION AND DAMAGES WHERE THE ISSUE OF CONSTITUTIONALITY IS
NOT THE VERY LIS MOTA OF THE CASE. NEITHER CAN LOI 1465 BE
CHALLENGED BY ANY PERSON OR ENTITY WHICH HAS NO STANDING TO DO
SO.

II
LOI 1465, BEING A LAW IMPLEMENTED FOR THE PURPOSE OF ASSURING THE
FERTILIZER SUPPLY AND DISTRIBUTION IN THE COUNTRY, AND FOR
BENEFITING A FOUNDATION CREATED BY LAW TO HOLD IN TRUST FOR
MILLIONS OF FARMERS THEIR STOCK OWNERSHIP IN PPI CONSTITUTES A
VALID LEGISLATION PURSUANT TO THE EXERCISE OF TAXATION AND POLICE
POWER FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES. TaCDIc

III

THE AMOUNT COLLECTED UNDER THE CAPITAL RECOVERY COMPONENT WAS


REMITTED TO THE GOVERNMENT, AND BECAME GOVERNMENT FUNDS
PURSUANT TO AN EFFECTIVE AND VALIDLY ENACTED LAW WHICH IMPOSED
DUTIES AND CONFERRED RIGHTS BY VIRTUE OF THE PRINCIPLE OF
"OPERATIVE FACT " PRIOR TO ANY DECLARATION OF UNCONSTITUTIONALITY
OF LOI 1465.
IV

THE PRINCIPLE OF UNJUST VEXATION (SHOULD BE ENRICHMENT) FINDS NO


APPLICATION IN THE INSTANT CASE. 2 0 (Underscoring supplied)

Our Ruling
We shall rst tackle the procedural issues of locus standi and the jurisdiction of
the RTC to resolve constitutional issues.
Fertiphil has locus standi because it
suffered direct injury; doctrine of
standing is a mere procedural
technicality which may be waived.
PPI argues that Fertiphil has no locus standi to question the constitutionality of
LOI No. 1465 because it does not have a "personal and substantial interest in the case
or will sustain direct injury as a result of its enforcement". 2 1 It asserts that Fertiphil did
not suffer any damage from the CRC imposition because "incidence of the levy fell on
the ultimate consumer or the farmers themselves, not on the seller fertilizer company".
22 Cdpr

We cannot agree. The doctrine of locus standi or the right of appearance in a


court of justice has been adequately discussed by this Court in a catena of cases.
Succinctly put, the doctrine requires a litigant to have a material interest in the outcome
of a case. In private suits, locus standi requires a litigant to be a "real party in interest",
which is de ned as "the party who stands to be bene ted or injured by the judgment in
the suit or the party entitled to the avails of the suit". 2 3
In public suits, this Court recognizes the di culty of applying the doctrine
especially when plaintiff asserts a public right on behalf of the general public because
of con icting public policy issues. 2 4 On one end, there is the right of the ordinary
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citizen to petition the courts to be freed from unlawful government intrusion and illegal
o cial action. At the other end, there is the public policy precluding excessive judicial
interference in o cial acts, which may unnecessarily hinder the delivery of basic public
services.
In this jurisdiction, We have adopted the "direct injury test" to determine locus
standi in public suits. In People v. Vera, 2 5 it was held that a person who impugns the
validity of a statute must have "a personal and substantial interest in the case such that
he has sustained, or will sustain direct injury as a result." The "direct injury test" in public
suits is similar to the "real party in interest" rule for private suits under Section 2, Rule 3
of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. 2 6 IaDTES

Recognizing that a strict application of the "direct injury" test may hamper public
interest, this Court relaxed the requirement in cases of "transcendental importance" or
with "far reaching implications." Being a mere procedural technicality, it has also been
held that locus standi may be waived in the public interest. 2 7
Whether or not the complaint for collection is characterized as a private or public
suit, Fertiphil has locus standi to le it. Fertiphil suffered a direct injury from the
enforcement of LOI No. 1465. It was required, and it did pay, the P10 levy imposed for
every bag of fertilizer sold on the domestic market. It may be true that Fertiphil has
passed some or all of the levy to the ultimate consumer, but that does not disqualify it
from attacking the constitutionality of the LOI or from seeking a refund. As seller, it
bore the ultimate burden of paying the levy. It faced the possibility of severe sanctions
for failure to pay the levy. The fact of payment is sufficient injury to Fertiphil.
Moreover, Fertiphil suffered harm from the enforcement of the LOI because it
was compelled to factor in its product the levy. The levy certainly rendered the fertilizer
products of Fertiphil and other domestic sellers much more expensive. The harm to
their business consists not only in fewer clients because of the increased price, but
also in adopting alternative corporate strategies to meet the demands of LOI No. 1465.
Fertiphil and other fertilizer sellers may have shouldered all or part of the levy just to be
competitive in the market. The harm occasioned on the business of Fertiphil is
sufficient injury for purposes of locus standi.
Even assuming arguendo that there is no direct injury, We nd that the liberal
policy consistently adopted by this Court on locus standi must apply. The issues raised
by Fertiphil are of paramount public importance. It involves not only the
constitutionality of a tax law but, more importantly, the use of taxes for public purpose.
Former President Marcos issued LOI No. 1465 with the intention of rehabilitating an
ailing private company. This is clear from the text of the LOI. PPI is expressly named in
the LOI as the direct bene ciary of the levy. Worse, the levy was made dependent and
conditional upon PPI becoming nancially viable. The LOI provided that "the capital
contribution shall be collected until adequate capital is raised to make PPI viable".
The constitutionality of the levy is already in doubt on a plain reading of the
statute. It is Our constitutional duty to squarely resolve the issue as the nal arbiter of
all justiciable controversies. The doctrine of standing, being a mere procedural
technicality, should be waived, if at all, to adequately thresh out an important
constitutional issue.
RTC may resolve constitutional
issues; the constitutional issue was
adequately raised in the complaint; it
is the lis mota of the case.
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PPI insists that the RTC and the CA erred in ruling on the constitutionality of the
LOI. It asserts that the constitutionality of the LOI cannot be collaterally attacked in a
complaint for collection. 2 8 Alternatively, the resolution of the constitutional issue is not
necessary for a determination of the complaint for collection. 2 9
Fertiphil counters that the constitutionality of the LOI was adequately pleaded in
its complaint. It claims that the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 is the very lis mota of
the case because the trial court cannot determine its claim without resolving the issue.
30

It is settled that the RTC has jurisdiction to resolve the constitutionality of a


statute, presidential decree or an executive order. This is clear from Section 5, Article
VIII of the 1987 Constitution, which provides:
SECTION 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:

xxx xxx xxx


(2) Review, revise, reverse, modify, or a rm on appeal or certiorari, as the law or
the Rules of Court may provide, final judgments and orders of lower courts in:
(a) All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty,
international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree,
proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question.
(Underscoring supplied)

In Mirasol v. Court of Appeals, 31 this Court recognized the power of the RTC to
resolve constitutional issues, thus:
On the rst issue. It is settled that Regional Trial Courts have the authority and
jurisdiction to consider the constitutionality of a statute, presidential decree, or
executive order. The Constitution vests the power of judicial review or the power
to declare a law, treaty, international or executive agreement, presidential decree,
order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation not only in this Court, but in all Regional
Trial Courts. 3 2

In the recent case of Equi-Asia Placement, Inc. v. Department of Foreign Affairs,


33 this Court reiterated:
There is no denying that regular courts have jurisdiction over cases involving the
validity or constitutionality of a rule or regulation issued by administrative
agencies. Such jurisdiction, however, is not limited to the Court of Appeals or to
this Court alone for even the regional trial courts can take cognizance of actions
assailing a speci c rule or set of rules promulgated by administrative bodies.
Indeed, the Constitution vests the power of judicial review or the power to declare
a law, treaty, international or executive agreement, presidential decree, order,
instruction, ordinance, or regulation in the courts, including the regional trial
courts. 3 4

Judicial review of o cial acts on the ground of unconstitutionality may be


sought or availed of through any of the actions cognizable by courts of justice, not
necessarily in a suit for declaratory relief. Such review may be had in criminal actions, as
in People v. Ferrer 3 5 involving the constitutionality of the now defunct Anti-Subversion
law, or in ordinary actions, as in Krivenko v. Register of Deeds 3 6 involving the
constitutionality of laws prohibiting aliens from acquiring public lands. The
constitutional issue, however, (a) must be properly raised and presented in the case,
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and (b) its resolution is necessary to a determination of the case, i.e., the issue of
constitutionality must be the very lis mota presented. 3 7
Contrary to PPI's claim, the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 was properly and
adequately raised in the complaint for collection led with the RTC. The pertinent
portions of the complaint allege:
6. The CRC of P10 per bag levied under LOI 1465 on domestic sales of all grades
of fertilizer in the Philippines, is unlawful, unjust, uncalled for, unreasonable,
inequitable and oppressive because:
xxx xxx xxx
(c) It favors only one private domestic corporation, i.e., defendant PPPI,
and imposed at the expense and disadvantage of the other fertilizer
importers/distributors who were themselves in tight business situation and
were then exerting all efforts and maximizing management and marketing
skills to remain viable;

xxx xxx xxx


(e) It was a glaring example of crony capitalism, a forced program through
which the PPI, having been presumptuously masqueraded as "the" fertilizer
industry itself, was the sole and anointed beneficiary;
7. The CRC was an unlawful; and unconstitutional special assessment and its
imposition is tantamount to illegal exaction amounting to a denial of due process
since the persons of entities which had to bear the burden of paying the CRC
derived no bene t therefrom; that on the contrary it was used by PPI in trying to
regain its former despicable monopoly of the fertilizer industry to the detriment of
other distributors and importers. 3 8 (Underscoring supplied)

The constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 is also the very lis mota of the complaint
for collection. Fertiphil led the complaint to compel PPI to refund the levies paid under
the statute on the ground that the law imposing the levy is unconstitutional. The thesis
is that an unconstitutional law is void. It has no legal effect. Being void, Fertiphil had no
legal obligation to pay the levy. Necessarily, all levies duly paid pursuant to an
unconstitutional law should be refunded under the civil code principle against unjust
enrichment. The refund is a mere consequence of the law being declared
unconstitutional. The RTC surely cannot order PPI to refund Fertiphil if it does not
declare the LOI unconstitutional. It is the unconstitutionality of the LOI which triggers
the refund. The issue of constitutionality is the very lis mota of the complaint with the
RTC.
The P10 levy under LOI No. 1465 is
an exercise of the power of taxation.
At any rate, the Court holds that the RTC and the CA did not err in ruling against
the constitutionality of the LOI.
PPI insists that LOI No. 1465 is a valid exercise either of the police power or the
power of taxation. It claims that the LOI was implemented for the purpose of assuring
the fertilizer supply and distribution in the country and for bene ting a foundation
created by law to hold in trust for millions of farmers their stock ownership in PPI.
Fertiphil counters that the LOI is unconstitutional because it was enacted to give
bene t to a private company. The levy was imposed to pay the corporate debt of PPI.
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Fertiphil also argues that, even if the LOI is enacted under the police power, it is still
unconstitutional because it did not promote the general welfare of the people or public
interest.
Police power and the power of taxation are inherent powers of the State. These
powers are distinct and have different tests for validity. Police power is the power of
the State to enact legislation that may interfere with personal liberty or property in
order to promote the general welfare, 3 9 while the power of taxation is the power to levy
taxes to be used for public purpose. The main purpose of police power is the regulation
of a behavior or conduct, while taxation is revenue generation. The "lawful subjects" and
"lawful means" tests are used to determine the validity of a law enacted under the
police power. 4 0 The power of taxation, on the other hand, is circumscribed by inherent
and constitutional limitations.
We agree with the RTC that the imposition of the levy was an exercise by the
State of its taxation power. While it is true that the power of taxation can be used as an
implement of police power, 4 1 the primary purpose of the levy is revenue generation. If
the purpose is primarily revenue, or if revenue is, at least, one of the real and substantial
purposes, then the exaction is properly called a tax. 4 2
In Philippine Airlines, Inc. v. Edu, 4 3 it was held that the imposition of a vehicle
registration fee is not an exercise by the State of its police power, but of its taxation
power, thus:
It is clear from the provisions of Section 73 of Commonwealth Act 123 and
Section 61 of the Land Transportation and Tra c Code that the legislative intent
and purpose behind the law requiring owners of vehicles to pay for their
registration is mainly to raise funds for the construction and maintenance of
highways and to a much lesser degree, pay for the operating expenses of the
administering agency. . . . Fees may be properly regarded as taxes even though
they also serve as an instrument of regulation.
Taxation may be made the implement of the state's police power ( Lutz v. Araneta,
98 Phil. 148). If the purpose is primarily revenue, or if revenue is, at least, one of
the real and substantial purposes, then the exaction is properly called a tax. Such
is the case of motor vehicle registration fees. The same provision appears as
Section 59(b) in the Land Transportation Code. It is patent therefrom that the
legislators had in mind a regulatory tax as the law refers to the imposition on the
registration, operation or ownership of a motor vehicle as a "tax or fee." . . . Simply
put, if the exaction under Rep. Act 4136 were merely a regulatory fee, the
imposition in Rep. Act 5448 need not be an "additional" tax. Rep. Act 4136 also
speaks of other "fees" such as the special permit fees for certain types of motor
vehicles (Sec. 10) and additional fees for change of registration (Sec. 11). These
are not to be understood as taxes because such fees are very minimal to be
revenue-raising. Thus, they are not mentioned by Sec. 59(b) of the Code as taxes
like the motor vehicle registration fee and chauffeurs' license fee. Such fees are to
go into the expenditures of the Land Transportation Commission as provided for
in the last proviso of Sec. 61. 4 4 (Underscoring supplied)

The P10 levy under LOI No. 1465 is too excessive to serve a mere regulatory
purpose. The levy, no doubt, was a big burden on the seller or the ultimate consumer. It
increased the price of a bag of fertilizer by as much as ve percent. 4 5 A plain reading
of the LOI also supports the conclusion that the levy was for revenue generation. The
LOI expressly provided that the levy was imposed "until adequate capital is raised to
make PPI viable".
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Taxes are exacted only for a public
purpose. The P10 levy is
unconstitutional because it was not
for a public purpose. The levy was
imposed to give undue benefit to PPI.
An inherent limitation on the power of taxation is public purpose. Taxes are
exacted only for a public purpose. They cannot be used for purely private purposes or
for the exclusive bene t of private persons. 4 6 The reason for this is simple. The power
to tax exists for the general welfare; hence, implicit in its power is the limitation that it
should be used only for a public purpose. It would be a robbery for the State to tax its
citizens and use the funds generated for a private purpose. As an old United States
case bluntly put it: "To lay with one hand, the power of the government on the property
of the citizen, and with the other to bestow it upon favored individuals to aid private
enterprises and build up private fortunes, is nonetheless a robbery because it is done
under the forms of law and is called taxation". 4 7
The term "public purpose" is not de ned. It is an elastic concept that can be
hammered to t modern standards. Jurisprudence states that "public purpose" should
be given a broad interpretation. It does not only pertain to those purposes which are
traditionally viewed as essentially government functions, such as building roads and
delivery of basic services, but also includes those purposes designed to promote
social justice. Thus, public money may now be used for the relocation of illegal settlers,
low-cost housing and urban or agrarian reform.
While the categories of what may constitute a public purpose are continually
expanding in light of the expansion of government functions, the inherent requirement
that taxes can only be exacted for a public purpose still stands. Public purpose is the
heart of a tax law. When a tax law is only a mask to exact funds from the public when its
true intent is to give undue bene t and advantage to a private enterprise, that law will
not satisfy the requirement of "public purpose".
The purpose of a law is evident from its text or inferable from other secondary
sources. Here, We agree with the RTC and that CA that the levy imposed under LOI No.
1465 was not for a public purpose.
First, the LOI expressly provided that the levy be imposed to bene t PPI, a private
company. The purpose is explicit from Clause 3 of the law, thus:
3. The Administrator of the Fertilizer Pesticide Authority to include in its fertilizer
pricing formula a capital contribution component of not less than P10 per
bag. This capital contribution shall be collected until adequate capital is
raised to make PPI viable. Such capital contribution shall be applied by
FPA to all domestic sales of fertilizers in the Philippines. 4 8 (Underscoring
supplied)

It is a basic rule of statutory construction that the text of a statute should be


given a literal meaning. In this case, the text of the LOI is plain that the levy was
imposed in order to raise capital for PPI. The framers of the LOI did not even hide the
insidious purpose of the law. They were cavalier enough to name PPI as the ultimate
bene ciary of the taxes levied under the LOI. We nd it utterly repulsive that a tax law
would expressly name a private company as the ultimate bene ciary of the taxes to be
levied from the public. This is a clear case of crony capitalism.
Second, the LOI provides that the imposition of the P10 levy was conditional and
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dependent upon PPI becoming nancially "viable." This suggests that the levy was
actually imposed to bene t PPI. The LOI notably does not x a maximum amount when
PPI is deemed nancially "viable". Worse, the liability of Fertiphil and other domestic
sellers of fertilizer to pay the levy is made inde nite. They are required to continuously
pay the levy until adequate capital is raised for PPI.
Third, the RTC and the CA held that the levies paid under the LOI were directly
remitted and deposited by FPA to Far East Bank and Trust Company, the depositary
bank of PPI. 4 9 This proves that PPI bene ted from the LOI. It is also proves that the
main purpose of the law was to give undue benefit and advantage to PPI.
Fourth, the levy was used to pay the corporate debts of PPI. A reading of the
Letter of Understanding 5 0 dated May 18, 1985 signed by then Prime Minister Cesar
Virata reveals that PPI was in deep nancial problem because of its huge corporate
debts. There were pending petitions for rehabilitation against PPI before the Securities
and Exchange Commission. The government guaranteed payment of PPI's debts to its
foreign creditors. To fund the payment, President Marcos issued LOI No. 1465. The
pertinent portions of the letter of understanding read: EICSDT

Republic of the Philippines

Office of the Prime Minister

Manila
LETTER OF UNDERTAKING

May 18, 1985


TO: THE BANKING AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
LISTED IN ANNEX A HERETO WHICH ARE
CREDITORS (COLLECTIVELY, THE "CREDITORS")
OF PLANTERS PRODUCTS, INC. ("PLANTERS")

Gentlemen:
This has reference to Planters which is the principal importer and distributor of
fertilizer, pesticides and agricultural chemicals in the Philippines. As regards
Planters, the Philippine Government con rms its awareness of the following: (1)
that Planters has outstanding obligations in foreign currency and/or pesos, to the
Creditors, (2) that Planters is currently experiencing nancial di culties , and (3)
that there are presently pending with the Securities and Exchange Commission of
the Philippines a petition led at Planters' own behest for the suspension of
payment of all its obligations, and a separate petition led by Manufacturers
Hanover Trust Company, Manila Offshore Branch for the appointment of a
rehabilitation receiver for Planters.
In connection with the foregoing, the Republic of the Philippines (the "Republic")
con rms that it considers and continues to consider Planters as a major fertilizer
distributor. Accordingly, for and in consideration of your expressed willingness to
consider and participate in the effort to rehabilitate Planters, the Republic hereby
manifests its full and unquali ed support of the successful rehabilitation and
continuing viability of Planters, and to that end, hereby binds and obligates itself
to the creditors and Planters, as follows:
xxx xxx xxx

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2. Upon the effective date of this Letter of Undertaking, the Republic shall cause
FPA to include in its fertilizer pricing formula a capital recovery component, the
proceeds of which will be used initially for the purpose of funding the unpaid
portion of the outstanding capital stock of Planters presently held in trust by
Planters Foundation, Inc. ("Planters Foundation"), which unpaid capital is
estimated at approximately P206 million (subject to validation by Planters and
Planters Foundation) such unpaid portion of the outstanding capital stock of
Planters being hereafter referred to as the "Unpaid Capital"), and subsequently for
such capital increases as may be required for the continuing viability of Planters.

xxx xxx xxx

The capital recovery component shall continue to be charged and collected until
payment in full of (a) the Unpaid Capital and/or (b) any shortfall in the payment
of the Subsidy Receivables, (c) any carrying cost accruing from the date hereof on
the amounts which may be outstanding from time to time of the Unpaid Capital
and/or the Subsidy Receivables, and (d) the capital increases contemplated in
paragraph 2 hereof. For the purpose of the foregoing clause (c), the "carrying
cost" shall be at such rate as will represent the full and reasonable cost to
Planters of servicing its debts, taking into account both its peso and foreign
currency-denominated obligations. ICHDca

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES


By:

(signed)
CESAR E. A. VIRATA

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance 5 1

It is clear from the Letter of Understanding that the levy was imposed precisely
to pay the corporate debts of PPI. We cannot agree with PPI that the levy was imposed
to ensure the stability of the fertilizer industry in the country. The letter of
understanding and the plain text of the LOI clearly indicate that the levy was exacted for
the benefit of a private corporation.
All told, the RTC and the CA did not err in holding that the levy imposed under LOI
No. 1465 was not for a public purpose. LOI No. 1465 failed to comply with the public
purpose requirement for tax laws.
The LOI is still unconstitutional even
if enacted under the police power; it
did not promote public interest.
Even if We consider LOI No. 1695 enacted under the police power of the State, it
would still be invalid for failing to comply with the test of "lawful subjects" and "lawful
means". Jurisprudence states the test as follows: (1) the interest of the public
generally, as distinguished from those of particular class, requires its exercise; and (2)
the means employed are reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose
and not unduly oppressive upon individuals. 5 2
For the same reasons as discussed, LOI No. 1695 is invalid because it did not
promote public interest. The law was enacted to give undue advantage to a private
corporation. We quote with approval the CA ratiocination on this point, thus:
It is upon applying this established tests that We sustain the trial court's holding
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LOI 1465 unconstitutional. To be sure, ensuring the continued supply and
distribution of fertilizer in the country is an undertaking imbued with public
interest. However, the method by which LOI 1465 sought to achieve this is by no
means a measure that will promote the public welfare. The government's
commitment to support the successful rehabilitation and continued viability of
PPI, a private corporation, is an unmistakable attempt to mask the subject
statute's impartiality. There is no way to treat the self-interest of a favored entity,
like PPI, as identical with the general interest of the country's farmers or even the
Filipino people in general. Well to stress, substantive due process exacts fairness
and equal protection disallows distinction where none is needed. When a statute's
public purpose is spoiled by private interest, the use of police power becomes a
travesty which must be struck down for being an arbitrary exercise of government
power. To rule in favor of appellant would contravene the general principle that
revenues derived from taxes cannot be used for purely private purposes or for the
exclusive benefit of private individuals. (Underscoring supplied)

The general rule is that an


unconstitutional law is void; the
doctrine of operative fact is
inapplicable.
PPI also argues that Fertiphil cannot seek a refund even if LOI No. 1465 is
declared unconstitutional. It banks on the doctrine of operative fact, which provides
that an unconstitutional law has an effect before being declared unconstitutional. PPI
wants to retain the levies paid under LOI No. 1465 even if it is subsequently declared to
be unconstitutional.
We cannot agree. It is settled that no question, issue or argument will be
entertained on appeal, unless it has been raised in the court a quo. 5 3 PPI did not raise
the applicability of the doctrine of operative fact with the RTC and the CA. It cannot
belatedly raise the issue with Us in order to extricate itself from the dire effects of an
unconstitutional law.
At any rate, We nd the doctrine inapplicable. The general rule is that an
unconstitutional law is void. It produces no rights, imposes no duties and affords no
protection. It has no legal effect. It is, in legal contemplation, inoperative as if it has not
been passed. 5 4 Being void, Fertiphil is not required to pay the levy. All levies paid
should be refunded in accordance with the general civil code principle against unjust
enrichment. The general rule is supported by Article 7 of the Civil Code, which provides:
ART. 7. Laws are repealed only by subsequent ones, and their violation or non-
observance shall not be excused by disuse or custom or practice to the contrary.

When the courts declare a law to be inconsistent with the Constitution, the former
shall be void and the latter shall govern.

The doctrine of operative fact, as an exception to the general rule, only applies as
a matter of equity and fair play. 5 5 It nulli es the effects of an unconstitutional law by
recognizing that the existence of a statute prior to a determination of
unconstitutionality is an operative fact and may have consequences which cannot
always be ignored. The past cannot always be erased by a new judicial declaration. 5 6
The doctrine is applicable when a declaration of unconstitutionality will impose
an undue burden on those who have relied on the invalid law. Thus, it was applied to a
criminal case when a declaration of unconstitutionality would put the accused in double
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jeopardy 5 7 or would put in limbo the acts done by a municipality in reliance upon a law
creating it. 5 8
Here, We do not nd anything iniquitous in ordering PPI to refund the amounts
paid by Fertiphil under LOI No. 1465. It unduly bene ted from the levy. It was proven
during the trial that the levies paid were remitted and deposited to its bank account.
Quite the reverse, it would be inequitable and unjust not to order a refund. To do so
would unjustly enrich PPI at the expense of Fertiphil. Article 22 of the Civil Code
explicitly provides that "every person who, through an act of performance by another
comes into possession of something at the expense of the latter without just or legal
ground shall return the same to him". We cannot allow PPI to pro t from an
unconstitutional law. Justice and equity dictate that PPI must refund the amounts paid
by Fertiphil.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals Decision dated
November 28, 2003 is AFFIRMED. TEDaAc

SO ORDERED.
Ynares-Santiago, Austria-Martinez, Chico-Nazario and Nachura, JJ., concur.
Footnotes

1. Rollo, pp. 51-59. Penned by Associate Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr., with Associate
Justices Bienvenido L. Reyes and Arsenio L. Magpale, concurring.
2. Id. at 75-77. Penned by Judge Teofilo L. Guadiz, Jr.

3. Id. at 8.

4. Id. at 75.
5. Id. at 155.

6. Id. at 76.
7. Id.

8. Id. at 195-202.

9. Id. at 196.
10. Id. at 66-73, 277.

11. Id. at 77.


12. Id. at 76-77.

13. Id. at 14.

14. Id. at 83-93. G.R. No. 156278, entitled "Planters Products, Inc. v. Fertiphil Corporation".
15. Id. at 59.

16. Id. at 54-55.


17. Id. at 129-130.

18. Id. at 55-58.

19. Id. at 61-62.


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20. Id. at 15.
21. Id. at 21.

22. Id.

23. Rules of Civil Procedure (1997), Rule 3, Sec. 2 provides:


A real party-in-interest is the party who stands to be bene ted or injured by the judgment in the
suit, or the party entitled to the avails of the suit. Unless otherwise authorized by law of
these Rules, every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party-
in-interest."
24. David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, G.R. Nos. 171396, 171409, 171485, 171483, 171400, 171489 &
171424, May 3, 2006, 489 SCRA 160.

25. 65 Phil. 56 (1937).


26. See note 23. AaSTIH

27. See note 24.

28. Rollo, p. 17.


29. Id. at 18.

30. Id. at 290.

31. G.R. No. 128448, February 1, 2001, 351 SCRA 44.


32. Mirasol v. Court of Appeals, id. at 51.

33. G.R. No. 152214, September 19, 2006, 502 SCRA 295.
34. Equi-Asia Placement, Inc. v. Department of Foreign Affairs, id. at 309.

35. G.R. Nos. L-32613-14, December 27, 1972, 48 SCRA 382.

36. 79 Phil. 461 (1947). SCETHa

37. Tropical Homes, Inc. v. National Housing Authority, G.R. No. L-48672, July 31, 1987, 152
SCRA 540.

38. Rollo, pp. 197-198.


39. Edu v. Ericta, G.R. No. L-32096, October 24, 1970, 35 SCRA 481.

40. Lim v. Pacquing, G.R. Nos. 115044 & 117263, January 27, 1995, 240 SCRA 649.
41. Lutz v. Araneta, 98 Phil. 148 (1966).

42. Philippine Airlines, Inc. v. Edu, G.R. No. L-41383, August 15, 1988, 164 SCRA 320.

43. Supra.
44. Philippine Airlines, Inc. v. Edu, supra note 42, at 327-329.

45. Rollo, p. 197.


46. Cruz, I., Constitutional Law, 1998 ed., p. 90.

47. Bernas, J., The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary, 1996
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ed., p. 714.

48. Rollo, p. 155.


49. Id. at 52, 75-76.

50. Id. at 150-154.

51. Id.
52. Id. at 55-58.

53. Cojuangco, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 119398, July 2, 1999, 309 SCRA 602, 614-615.
54. See note 46, at 33-34. ESCcaT

55. Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 79732, November 8, 1993, 227 SCRA 509.

56. Peralta v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 95832, August 10, 1992, 212 SCRA 425.
57. Tan v. Barrios, G.R. Nos. 85481-82, October 18, 1990, 190 SCRA 686, citing Aquino, Jr. v.
Military Commission No. 2, G.R. No. L-37364, May 9, 1975, 63 SCRA 546.
58. Id., citing Municipality of Malabang v. Benito, G.R. No. L-28113, March 28, 1969, 27 SCRA
533.

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